Down East 2013 ©
This year’s Milfoil Summit, scheduled for February 25, offers you a good opportunity to hear directly from Maine’s new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Darryl Brown, who will present “his vision for the DEP.” Should be very interesting. And the commissioner will take questions. That should be even more interesting.
Without doubt, Brown is challenged to stay ahead of the withering criticism of his boss’ “Environmental Reform Proposals.” Rather than reforms, many are repeals of laws and rules passed over the last decade to protect and enhance Maine’s environment and quality of life.
At his confirmation, Brown acknowledged that he’d had no input or knowledge of the governor’s proposals. But he’ll be in the lead as they make their way through the legislative process — a very tough assignment if he is unable to reel the governor in on some of those proposals. To his credit, Brown has quickly reached out to the environmental community to address their concerns.
His acceptance of the invitation to the Milfoil Summit is another indication of his interest in collaborating with environmentalists.
The Milfoil Summit is free and open to the public. It is scheduled for Friday, February 25, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lewiston-Auburn campus of the University of Southern Maine. You can register by email to Roberta@leamaine.org  or by phone, 207-647-8580.
Roberta Scruggs and Peter Lowell of the Lakes Environmental Association have done a superb job, once again, in putting together an interesting and informative morning for summit participants.
I spoke at the summit last year, challenging those who are worried about invasive plants to consider the damage done by invasive fish. I started my speech this way.
“How many of you fish?
“Perhaps that explains why you’ve been missing in action for the past twenty-five years while illegally introduced, nonnative fish species have changed and damaged entire ecosystems and wiped out our native fish.
“Muskies have wiped out native brook trout in the entire St. John River drainage. Pike have eaten everything in the Belgrades. Crappie have been introduced illegally in over 300 lakes and ponds.
“All this has happened with nary a whimper of reaction. But boy oh boy, we’re extremely concerned about invasive plants. These plants may damage your favorite water, but they won’t have the impact that invasive fish have had and will continue to have in the future.
Worried initially about the reaction to my challenging remarks, I was pleasantly surprised, 2,000 words later, by the very positive reaction and friendly questions from the audience.
Perhaps Joe Dembeck will enjoy a similar reaction. After Brown speaks to open this year’s summit, Dembeck, Fisheries Management Supervisor for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will talk about “why help is needed from the invasive plant community to combat this threat to native species.” I’ve got ‘em all warmed up for you Joe!
If you’d like to read my 2010 Milfoil Summit speech, I’ve posted it in my news blog at www.georgesmithmaine.com .
After Dembeck’s presentation, summit participants will hear an engaging panel discussion about a legislative bill calling for the closure of the Songo Lock in Napes to boating until the river is cleared of milfoil. That bill has a lot of boaters ready to storm the capital. The summit discussion includes an examination of how policy for closing an infested launch is made and evaluated. You will be amazed at what you hear.
Jackie Bailey, Director and Researcher of the Maine Milfoil Consortium, will review what was accomplished in 2010 with a $500,000 federal grant. I can’t wait to hear this report.
And finally, a distinguished panel will take questions and comments from the audience. The panel consists of Maggie Shannon of Congress of Lakes Association, John McPhedran of the DEP, Roberta Hill of the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, Jackey Bailey, and Peter Lowell.
I’ll be there too, so say hello!